Tag Archives: canada

British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

That’s all kinds of scary. If there’s one place on Earth that would be the worst possible spot for a giant volcanic chain, it’s beneath West Antarctica. Turns out, it’s not a great situation to have a bunch of volcanoes underneath a huge ice sheet.

In a discovery announced earlier this week, a team of researchers discovered dozens of them across a 2,200-mile swath of the frozen continent. Antarctica, if you’re listening, please stop scaring us.

The study that led to the discovery was conceived of by an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Max Van Wyk de Vries. With a team of researchers, he used radar to look under the ice for evidence of cone-shaped mountains that had disturbed the ice around them. They found 91 previously unknown volcanoes. “We were amazed,” Robert Bingham, one of the study’s authors, told the Guardian.

The worry is that, as in Iceland and Alaska, two regions of active volcanism that were ice-covered until relatively recently, a warming climate could help these Antarctic volcanoes spring to life soon. In a worst-case scenario, the melting ice could release pressure on the volcanoes and trigger eruptions, further destabilizing the ice sheet.

“The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible,” Bingham said.

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British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

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These Republicans Want to Put Ankle Monitors on the Sponsors of Undocumented Children

Mother Jones

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Two top Texas Republican lawmakers have been working on a border security and immigration enforcement bill with input from the Trump administration, according to multiple reports—and it pulls few punches.

Most notably, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s bill would force the sponsors of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 to 17 who show up unaccompanied at the border to wear ankle monitors so that the teens don’t skip out on deportation hearings. The sponsors are typically parents or other family members—many of whom are legal residents or citizens.

The use of ankle monitors on migrants themselves is already controversial. Mother Jones has previously reported that through for-profit companies, and at the cost of thousands of dollars, ankle monitors are offered as alternatives to long-term detention for migrants who can’t afford the lump sum of their bail, even though the monthly payments can eventually overshadow the original bail amounts. Requiring the sponsors, instead of the migrants, to wear the ankle bracelets appears to be an unprecedented step further.

The early “discussion draft” of the bill also calls to increase criminal prosecutions for immigrants who cross the border illegally, including establishing a five-year minimum prison sentence for those who re-enter the country after being deported. It would expand the use of mandatory detention for immigrants arrested within 100 miles of a border who are from countries other than Mexico or Canada—the overwhelming majority of migrants entering the United States come from Central America. It seeks an increase in detention space, allows for financial reimbursement to states that deploy their National Guard to the border, and calls for more immigration judges to speed up deportations. It calls for various border wall upgrades, but stops short of providing for Trump’s long-promised “big, beautiful” border wall.

On Tuesday, a congressional aide told Politico that the bill circulating is “really old” and “nowhere near the current draft.” But it’s unclear what has changed. While the bill is aimed at avoiding the pitfalls of the far right, hardline anti-immigrant groups have come out against it, arguing that because it lacks imposing sanctions on businesses that hire undocumented immigrants and does not provide for Trump’s border wall, it is toothless. “There’s not a single thing about worksite enforcement or anything at all against employers,” Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Washington Post. “It’s tinkering around the margins.”

Both the offices of Cornyn and McCaul declined to comment on the bill, including whether the latest draft still includes a mandate forcing undocumented children’s sponsors to wear ankle monitors.

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These Republicans Want to Put Ankle Monitors on the Sponsors of Undocumented Children

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Walmart just pledged to eliminate a billion tons of greenhouse gas.

That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions.

It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on.

But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan.

Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.

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Walmart just pledged to eliminate a billion tons of greenhouse gas.

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Scientists say that human-caused climate change rerouted a river.

Raj Karmani was a graduate student in computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when his frequent trips to the neighborhood bagel store opened his eyes to food waste. Most of the unsold bagels usually went into the trash. Karmani’s obsession with efficiency got him thinking: What if there were an app that would sync up businesses with fresh, excess food and organizations in need of it? In 2013, he started Zero Percent, an online platform for food donation.

Here’s how it works: First, a food producer at a commercial kitchen, say a restaurant or bagel shop, opens an Uber-style app and drops in detailed data about the excess food: the amount, where to pick it up, when to pick it up, etc. Then, a delivery person, hired by Zero Percent, scoops up the food and drops it off at any number of youth groups, community centers, or nonprofits that have also signed up for the app and signaled a need.

Right now, Zero Percent operates in the Chicago area and in Urbana-Champaign (but plans to expand), and its biggest clients include the University of Illinois and the local Salvation Army. Karmani says Zero Percent has delivered more than 1,000 meals. As a well-educated and relatively well-off immigrant, the experience has been eye-opening for him. “Some of these kids have never seen strawberries.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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Scientists say that human-caused climate change rerouted a river.

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Study: Climate Change Could Increase PTSD, Suicide, and Depression

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Huffington Post and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Climate change threatens our cities, our crops, our health and our safety. What many people don’t know is that it also threatens our minds.

On Wednesday, just a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order undoing the Obama administration’s climate change efforts, the American Psychological Association and the environmental group ecoAmerica published a report describing how climate change is poised to take a grievous toll on our mental health. The report, “Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications and Guidance,” concludes that people living in a number of regions could become more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, suicide, and other mental health issues as a result of climate change.

“It all sounds quite drastic, but it’s not inevitable,” Susan Clayton, one of the authors of the report, said Wednesday during a webinar on the topic.

In addition to outlining the connection between climate change and mental health, the report also offers guidance on how to help people who are most vulnerable. That includes expanding infrastructure for mental health programs in susceptible communities and better preparing first responders to address mental health issues in the wake of a disaster.

Here are some of the connections between changing weather patterns and mental health:

Disasters are linked to short- and long-term mental health issues

In 2014, human-induced climate change played a role in at least 14 extreme weather events, National Geographic reports. These included Hawaii’s active hurricane season, droughts in East Africa, and record rains in New Zealand and France. People who endure such events may subsequently experience immediate or long-term psychological trauma due to personal injury, death of a loved one, or loss of personal property or livelihood, among other issues.

Acute traumatic stress is the most common mental health problem that survivors of natural disasters experience, according to the report. But it’s far from the only one.

Of a sample of people affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for example, 1 in 6 had post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicide and suicidal ideation—also known as suicidal thoughts—more than doubled among this group in the aftermath of the storm. And nearly half the people developed an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression.

Hot weather is associated with increased aggression, suicide

In the U.S. alone, the number of heat waves tripled between 2011 and 2012. Studies have found that hot temperatures are associated with increased aggression—which can lead people to hurt themselves and others.

Homicide rates rise when temperatures go up, a number of studies have concluded. Higher temperatures have also been linked to increased instances of suicide, because the “distress” of feeling hot can sometimes overwhelm people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

Displacement can lead to feelings of severe loss

By 2050, about 200 million people will be displaced due to climate change. This is expected to occur because of a number of factors, including rising sea levels and certain areas becoming unable to support crops. Losing one’s home can lead to a condition called solastalgia, characterized by intense feelings of desolation and loss.

“Loss of place is not a trivial experience,” the authors of the report note. “Many people form a strong attachment to the place where they live, finding it to provide a sense of stability, security, and personal identity.” People who maintain an attachment to their local community also report experiencing greater happiness, life satisfaction and optimism.

Compounding the problem is the fact that people who are forced to move will also lose social connections, meaning their crucial support systems are likely to erode. The loss of these networks would put people’s sense of continuity and belonging at risk.

Loss of land and occupation leads to loss of identity

People with location-based occupations, like farmers and fishermen, will have to abandon their work if the natural world changes too much. This is happening in communities worldwide, but the circumpolar north is especially vulnerable. It’s warming at more than twice the global average rate, putting local indigenous people at what the report calls “the frontlines in experiencing climate change effects.”

In Canada, for example, Inuit people hunt, fish, forage and harvest regularly. Mental health professionals have a number of concerns about this specific community, whose well-being could be compromised with even a subtle change to their environment. Inuit people say they’re turning to drugs and alcohol to help fill “the newly ’empty’ time” they once used for land-based activities, the report notes. Professionals are also concerned that members of this community could lose a sense of their cultural identity and a feeling of balance and good health that they derive from the natural world.

“I think for the Inuit, going out on the land is just as much a part of our life as breathing,” a local leader said, according to the report. “So if we don’t get out, then, for our mental well-being, it’s like you are not fulfilled.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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Study: Climate Change Could Increase PTSD, Suicide, and Depression

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Who installs more solar power? Republicans and Democrats are pretty much tied.

On Thursday, TransCanada, the corporation behind the infamous project, resubmitted an application to the State Department for permission to build the pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border.

Just two days earlier, President Donald Trump had signed a presidential memorandum formally inviting the company to give the pipeline another go. Apparently, TransCanada got right down to work.

“This privately funded infrastructure project will help meet America’s growing energy needs,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, “as well as create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs.” A 2013 State Department report found the pipeline would create 28,000 jobs, but just 35 would be permanent.

Barack Obama rejected the pipeline plan in 2015, after indigenous groups and environmentalists fought it for nearly a decade. Now that a new application has been submitted, the project needs to be OK’d by both the State Department and Trump to proceed. Nebraska also needs to review and approve the project, which it’s expected to do.

Last June, TransCanada took advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement — a deal Trump disdains — to file a $15 billion claim against the U.S. government for rejecting its Keystone proposal. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

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Who installs more solar power? Republicans and Democrats are pretty much tied.

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CIA Says Russians Celebrated Trump’s Victory

Mother Jones

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The Washington Post passes along the juiciest bit of the CIA’s classified report on Russian hacking:

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Then NBC News got into the act:

The official agreed to talk to NBC News after the Post published leaked details of the review because the official felt that the details the paper chose focused too much on the Russian celebration and not enough on the thrust of the report.

Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations.

….The report, on which Obama was also orally briefed, explains what intelligence agencies believe are Moscow’s motives, including, in part, a desire to disrupt the American democratic process. But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration’s questioning of Vladimir Putin’s legitimacy as president.

Tomorrow Donald Trump will get his own briefing on the CIA report. That oughta be good. And in other Trump-related news, we got yet another outraged tweet about cars today:

It’s true that Toyota is moving production of the Corolla to Mexico. But here’s the thing: they’re moving it from Canada. This is not exactly breaking news, either: the Canadian media reported all this nearly two years ago.

Right now, about half of the Corollas sold in the US are made in Mississippi and the other half in Canada. When the new plant is finished, about half will be made in Mississippi and the other half in Mexico. Nothing changes. We’re still importing the same number of Corollas. And the Canadian plant will be reconfigured to build more profitable SUVs and mid-sized cars.

Unless it infuriates you that we’re importing some Corollas from Mexico instead of Canada, this is a nothingburger. On the other hand, if you just want to demagogue Mexico, I guess it’s tailor made.

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CIA Says Russians Celebrated Trump’s Victory

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Obama Just Took a Big Step on Climate—and Trump Probably Can’t Undo It

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Barack Obama has permanently banned new oil and gas drilling in most US-owned waters in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, a last-ditch effort to lock in environmental protections before he hands over to Donald Trump.

Obama used a 1953 law that allows presidents to block the sale of new offshore drilling and mining rights and makes it difficult for their successors to reverse the decision.

However, Obama’s ban—affecting federal waters off Alaska in the Chukchi Sea and most of the Beaufort Sea and in the Atlantic from New England to the Chesapeake Bay—is unprecedented in scale and could be challenged by Trump in court.

The president-elect has vowed to unleash the country’s untapped energy reserves and exploit fossil fuels. He has previously questioned the science of climate change, threatened to tear up the Paris climate agreement and appointed climate-change deniers in his cabinet.

This has led to a scramble from environmentalists calling on Obama to impose whatever regulations and executive orders he can to protect his climate legacy.

Tuesday’s move came in a joint announcement by Obama and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who also put a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters, subject to periodic review.

Obama, currently on holiday in Hawaii and with only a month left in office, said in a statement:”These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth. They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.

“By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region—at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.”

In 2015, just 0.1 percent of US federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic. A Department of Interior analysis shows that, at current oil prices, significant production in the Arctic will not occur. “That’s why looking forward, we must continue to focus on economic empowerment for Arctic communities beyond this one sector,” the statement said.

Campaigners welcomed the announcement. Jacqueline Savitz, a senior vice president at the advocacy group Oceana told the Associated Press: “This decision will help protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods.

“The people of the Atlantic coast refused to allow their way of life to be compromised and we commend their hard work making their voices heard in Washington.”

Few energy companies have expressed a wish to drill any time soon off the coasts thanks to abundant cheap shale oil in North Dakota and Texas. Exploratory drilling in the Arctic is costly and risky.

But with Trump in the White House, the obscure law could face a challenge. Dan Naatz of the Independent Petroleum Association of America told the Associated Press: “Instead of building on our nation’s position as a global energy leader, today’s unilateral mandate could put America back on a path of energy dependence for decades to come.”

And Erik Milito, upstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, told Reuters: “We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this decision as the nation continues to need a robust strategy for developing offshore and onshore energy.”

Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.

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Obama Just Took a Big Step on Climate—and Trump Probably Can’t Undo It

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Trump team wants details on the State Department’s climate efforts. That can’t be good.

The administration announced Tuesday that President Obama will use a provision in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to halt new offshore drilling in parts of federally owned Arctic and Atlantic waters — forever. While previous presidents have used that act to protect parts of the ocean, this is the first time it’s been exercised to enact a permanent ban on drilling. Canada will also indefinitely ban future drilling in its Arctic territory, the country said in the joint announcement.

The announcement came four weeks shy of Obama’s White House departure. President-elect Trump, a climate change denier, has vowed to undo many of Obama’s executive orders as well as dismantle the Clean Power Plan, open more federal lands to drilling, and withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

But by using an existing act instead of issuing an executive order, Obama made the reversal of this drilling ban more difficult for his successor.

“We know now, more clearly than ever, that a Trump presidency will mean more fossil fuel corruption and less governmental protection for people and the planet, so decisions like these are crucial,” said Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols. “President Obama should do this and more to stop any new fossil fuel infrastructure that would lock in the worst effects of climate change.”

This story has been updated. 

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Trump team wants details on the State Department’s climate efforts. That can’t be good.

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ExxonMobil has doubled down on dirty tar-sands oil.

The company recently admitted that it has invested heavily in Canada’s tar-sands oil reserves, InsideClimate News reports — and it was not a good bet.

Tar-sands oil is difficult, expensive, and energy-consuming to extract, making it especially bad for the climate. It’s only profitable when oil prices are high. Exxon acknowledged in a public financial disclosure report this fall that it could be forced to take a loss on billions of barrels of tar-sands oil unless prices rise soon.

The company made this unwise investment despite long knowing, as InsideClimate News previously reported, that burning oil causes climate change and future climate regulations could make tar-sands oil unprofitable or impossible to drill.

In 1991, Exxon’s Canadian affiliate Imperial Oil commissioned an analysis that found carbon regulation could halt tar-sands production. “Yet Exxon, Imperial, and others poured billions of dollars into the tar sands while lobbying against government actions that would curtail development,” according to InsideClimate News.

This news comes just after Donald Trump nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. The State Department is responsible for reviewing proposed pipeline projects that cross international borders, like Keystone XL, which would have carried tar-sands oil from Canada down toward U.S. refineries.

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ExxonMobil has doubled down on dirty tar-sands oil.

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